Mixed response on rates review
Afarmer leader has expressed disappointment in the terms of reference set to guide a review into Victoria’s municipal rating system.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke, of Murra Warra, said he feared the review process would do little to immediately provide respite for farmers.
He also added that he believed terms of reference based purely on rating figures were too narrow to solve broader local government issues.
“One of the big disappointments is that the government didn’t engage us in developing the terms of reference when we were the main group who drove this move,” he said.
“Addressing issues surrounding how best to share the rates burden represents a catalyst to generating discussion surrounding local government.
“In reality the broader picture tells us that discussion needs to be around the function of local government, the financing of local-government operations and finally the governance of local government – how it is structured and managed based on the expectations of service delivery and making sure the checks and balances are in place to ensure that occurs.”
An independent review panel, led by former Royal Children’s Hospital and
City of Melbourne chief executive Dr Kathy Alexander must provide recommendations to Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek by March 2020.
Mr Somyurek outlined time frames and terms of reference for the review, designed to ensure local government councils were accountable to ratepayers, last week.
Mr Somyurek said the review was about making sure Victorian councils used a rating system that was ‘fair, equitable and effective for all Victorians’.
“The system we have now is complex and in need of review – we need a contemporary rating system that gives people a fair deal,” he said.
“I look forward to working with Dr Alexander on this important review and building on our Fair Go Rates System.”
Assessment surrounding the sharing of a necessary-rates burden between municipal sectors has long been contentious, especially in regional areas.
Rating systems, processes and outcomes have led to lengthy, passionate and at times intense and controversial debate in several councils, including Ararat and Horsham.
The farming sector has been particularly outspoken on issues of equity surrounding rates.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh described the review as a ‘sham’, arguing it would fail to address the main issue face by farmers – ‘the unfair rates cap’.
“Labor’s so-called Fair Go rates cap caused farm rates in some shires to skyrocket by nearly 30 percent last year,” Mr Walsh said.
“Farmers waited months for the government to get cracking with this review, and now we learn Premier Daniel Andrews is excluding his failed rates cap from the scope of the inquiry.
“It’s also frustrating the review’s scope excludes looking at the adequacy of the valuation system and that it will ignore other sources of local government funding such as state and Commonwealth grants.
“Labor has set up a sham review that simply will not deliver the systematic overhaul Victorians deserve so rates are fair for everyone.
“Mr Andrews has also ignored calls for an interim rates cap to be applied to all rating categories while the review is conducted.
“Farmers who got hit with huge increases last year are rightly very nervous about the next rates assessments which will be hitting mail boxes soon.”
The review panel will consider in its deliberations – • Local government charges • Rating exemptions and concessions and their application to various classes of land, including farm land. • The autonomy of local governments to apply a rating system that takes into account ‘local’ factors • Exemptions and discounts for local government rates the impact any recommended changes would have on councils, ratepayers and residents.
The State Government introduced a Fair Go Rates System in 2015 to stop a decade of average annual 6 percent increases. This system will remain in place.
Victorians will be able express views to the panel and participate in the review process. rates and